Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One

Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One

by Jenny Blake


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Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One by Jenny Blake

What's next? is a question we all have to ask and answer more frequently in an economy where the average job tenure is only four years, roles change constantly even within that time, and smart, motivated people find themselves hitting professional plateaus. But how do you evaluate options and move forward without getting stuck?

Jenny Blake—a former training and career development specialist at Google who now runs her own company as a career and business consultant and speaker—has a solution: the pivot. Pivoting is a crucial strategy for Silicon Valley tech companies and startups but it can also be a successful strategy for individuals looking to make changes in their work lives. This book will introduce you to the Pivot Method and show you how to to take small, smart steps to move in a new direction—now and throughout your entire career.

No matter your age, industry, or bank account balance, Jenny's advice will help you move forward with confidence. Pivot also includes valuable insight for leaders who want to have more frequent career conversations with their teams to help talented people move and grow within their roles and the broader organization.

If change is the only constant, let's get better at it. Your career success and satisfaction depends on your ability to navigate change well and this book can help you do so.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143129035
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/19/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 114,363
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Jenny Blake is a career and business strategist and international speaker who helps people move beyond burnout and create sustainable careers they love. She left her job in career development at Google in 2011 after five and a half years at the company to launch her first book, Life After College, and has since run her own consulting business in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

High Net Growth

I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success.

-Steve Martin, Born Standing Up

I was sitting behind a card table in the sticky Texas heat at the South by Southwest Conference in 2011, signing copies of Life After College at a small launch party. The books were not even in stores yet-they were truly "hot off the press." The first person in line walked up to the table and, as I started signing, asked, "So . . . what's next?"

I stuttered and stammered through an awkward reply. Even though he had the best intentions, I could not help but feel a bit deflated. It was so strange. Here was this massive project, this life goal embodied in a bound stack of paper, sitting in my hands after three years of staring down my gremlins to write it, and people were already asking what's next.

The truth was, I had no idea. I had just started three months of unpaid leave from Google, and as regularly as brushing my teeth, I agonized over my own next career move as the clock on my sabbatical ticked down. Every day I struggled with what the right decision would be: return to Mountain View after my book tour, ask to work part time from New York City, or leave the company altogether? Should I make the safe, secure choice? Or should I take the risk of leaving and do the thing that terrified and excited me most by taking my own business full time?

Though I loved my time at Google-it was the best five-year MBA I could ask for-ultimately I felt I could make the biggest contribution if I pursued a new direction. I ran the numbers: I could support up to 35,000 Googlers at the time through internal career development programs, or I could leave and try to expand my reach and global impact to a far greater number, following my personal mission to be as helpful as possible to as many people as possible.

Some people measure their lives in terms of money, orienting their careers around acquiring wealth and material markers of success. Those who have accumulated financial wealth are considered high net worth individuals. But for the vast majority of people I encounter, money is not the number one driver of purpose and fulfillment. It is only a partial means to that end. A study by Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton confirms this: once people surpass $75,000 in annual net income ($82,000 in today's dollars), they experience no statistically significant bump in their day-to-day emotional well-being.

For many, money is nice to have, but not at the expense of soul-crushing work, if they have the economic flexibility to choose otherwise. The people I am talking about, and the ones for whom this book will resonate most, are those who are unwilling to settle for a career of phoning it in. They are willing to pay dues, but are not prepared to sit stalled for long, unable to see the value or impact of their work.

These individuals optimize for high net growth and impact, not just high net worth. I call them impacters for short. Impacters love learning, taking action, tackling new projects, and solving problems. They are generous and cooperative, and imbued with a strong desire to make a difference.

Impacters aim first and foremost for a sense of momentum and expansion. They ask, "Am I learning?" When their inward desire for growth is being met, they turn their attention outward, seeking to make a positive impact on their families, companies, communities, and global societies. Often these happen in tandem; by seeking problems they can fix and tackling them, impacters meet their needs for exploration and challenge, uncovering callings along the way.

Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The Psychology of Success, discovered in her research that the most successful people are those with a growth mindset. These are people who believe that their basic qualities are things they can cultivate through their efforts, rather than believing their gifts (or lack of them) are fixed traits. The truth, Dweck says, is that brains and talent are just the starting point. "The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it's not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset," Dweck writes. "This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives."

Maintaining a growth mindset is critical to navigating a pivot successfully. By seeing change as an opportunity, rather than a personal shortcoming or obstacle, you will be much more likely to find creative solutions based on what excites you, rather than subpar choices clouded by fear. Making career moves based solely on running from unhappiness and avoiding fear is like trying to fix a gaping wound with a Band-Aid; the solution does not stay in place for long. With a growth mindset, you will be open to new ideas, observant in your experimentation, deliberate in your implementation, and flexible in the face of change.

Fixed anything doesn't work for impacters, who are allergic to stagnation and boredom. Author Tim Ferriss captured this sentiment in The 4-Hour Workweek, saying, "The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is . . . boredom." It turns out that boredom itself can induce stress, causing the same physical discomfort as too much work: increased heart rate and cortisol levels, as well as muscle tension, stomachaches, and headaches.

For impacters, boredom is a symptom of fulfillment deficiency-of not maximizing for growth and impact-rather than a sign of inherent laziness. As University of Waterloo professor of neuroscience James Danckert wrote, "We tend to think of boredom as someone lazy, as a couch potato. It's actually when someone is motivated to engage with their environment and all attempts to do so fail. It's aggressively dissatisfying."

In her 1997 study, Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski, associate professor of organizational behavior at Yale University's School of Management, proposed that people see their work as a job, career, or calling. Those with a job orientation see work as a means to the end of paying the bills; those with a career orientation are more likely to emphasize success, status, and prestige; and those with a calling describe work as integral to their lives, a core part of their identity and a fulfilling reward in itself. Impacters fall clearly into the second category and aspire to the third, if they are not already there.

Impacters are not just asking What did I earn? but What did I learn? What did I create? What did I contribute? They measure their quality of life by how much they are learning, challenged, and contributing. If they are doing all three intelligently and intentionally, they work hard to ensure that the money will follow.

It is not that impacters are not interested in money-they are. They have no desire to live as starving artists. They know it is challenging, if not impossible, to focus on others if one's own basic needs are not met first. But when faced with the prospect of a career plateau, they would make the horizontal move, leave the cushy corporate job, or bootstrap their own business to prioritize growth and impact. A person who aims for learning and contribution may rank intellectual capital over financial capital if pressed to choose, but often ends up wealthy in both.

Take Christian Golofaro and John Scaife, who traded coffee and cotton in the open outcry pits on Wall Street for five years. Tired of the daily pressures of their jobs and looking for meaning beyond buying and selling commodities, they pooled their money in 2014 to start an urban farming business in Red Hook, Brooklyn. They sought to help revolutionize food production by bringing fresh, local, pesticide-free produce to New York City year-round. They were more inspired as impacters in their new business, SpringUps, than they ever were in finance.

Though he spent thousands of hours in high school and college preparing for a career in medicine, Travis Hellstrom decided to join the Peace Corps after graduation instead. He gave up his full ride to medical school and moved to Mongolia, where he served in the Peace Corps for over three years, living on two hundred dollars a month. When Travis reflects on the decision, he says, "It took a lot of soul-searching and being okay with disappointing myself and others, but I left my life and found my calling." After he returned, Travis pivoted again to nonprofit coaching and community management. Several years later, he parlayed that independent consulting work into a role as chair of the Mission-Driven Organizations graduate program at Marlboro University.

Impacters continue learning and contributing throughout their working lives, which often extend far past what is traditionally thought of as retirement age. When I asked Kyle Durand about his impending retirement from the military after twenty-seven years of service, his sentiments reflected those of many people I know who have no plans to retire in the traditional sense.

"I think retirement is an antiquated notion. The whole idea that you work for most of your adult life in order to eventually do the things you want is outmoded," Kyle said. "My retirement from the military is simply closing the chapter on that part of my career, but it is not the end of my working days by any stretch. Now I can shift into building my businesses full time. That is my future, part of my legacy. That is how I want to make an impact with the people I care about."

Christian, John, Travis, and Kyle pivoted in new directions that were more aligned with their values, interests, and goals, even though there was not a guarantee of success. As impacters, they saw these changes as opportunities for growth and recognized that their ability to learn and adapt would help them land on their feet no matter what. This helped them maintain a positive outlook throughout their pivots, knowing they would benefit from following their instincts and aspirations instead of societal expectations, no matter the outcome.

As I was writing this book, many of the people I initially interviewed returned six months or one year later and said things like, "Don't bother putting my story in the book. I am pivoting again."

This manifested in a variety of ways: they got poached by another company for an even better role; their company folded, got acquired, or got sold; they decided not to pursue a new skill or industry after all; they realized entrepreneurship was or was not for them; or they shifted their business into a more promising new direction.

Hearing these updates did not surprise me, nor did it mark their initial pivot as a failure. Instead, they are prime examples of what it means to be high net growth and impact individuals. I expect to hear that impacters are pivoting and adjusting dynamically at every turn.

For a directory of people featured in this book and what they are up to now, visit PivotMethod.com/people; for audio interviews and episodes from the Pivot Podcast, visit JennyBlake.me/podcast.

Career Operating Modes

An essential facet of the Pivot mindset is self-awareness. How are you currently showing up in your day-to-day work? Are you operating at your desired energy levels, creative output, and impact? I have observed four primary Career Operating Modes among pivoters: inactive, reactive, proactive, and innovative. The first two are impacter stressors, the latter two are sweet spots:

Inactive: Does not seek changes; paralyzed by fear, uncertainty, and self-doubt; covers up career or life dissatisfaction with unhealthy habits, such as numbing out with excessive amounts of food, alcohol, TV, video games, and so on; feels and acts like a victim of circumstances.

Reactive: Mimics others' models for success without originality; follows instructions to the letter; waits for inspiration to strike; "phones it in" at work; feels unhappy, but does not inquire into why or what to do about it; lets fear overrule planning for the future and subsequent action steps.

Proactive: Seeks new projects; actively learns new skills; is open to change; improves existing programs; makes connections with others; takes ownership even within existing leadership structures; has a giver mentality, willing and interested in helping others. May not be fully using innate talents, but is exploring what they are and how to amplify them.

Innovative: In addition to proactive mode qualities, fully taps into unique strengths; focuses on purpose-driven work and making meaningful contributions; is energized by a strong vision for new projects with a clear plan for making them happen; does not just improve existing structures, but creates new solutions to benefit others.

Impacters thrive in situations where they are able to be proactive and, even more so, innovative in driving their career forward, implementing new ideas and creatively solving problems, stretching to the edges of what is possible for themselves and the companies they start or work for. When impacters find themselves in inactive or reactive operating mode, they look to pivot again toward a new, more engaging opportunity.

Although it is true that some people may work in inactive or reactive mode for their entire careers, this is not a life that impacters can stomach. The boredom, anxiety, and feeling of standing still becomes increasingly intolerable, often manifesting in physical symptoms such as headaches, getting sick more frequently, or worse.

At these critical pivot points, impacters must recognize this tension and take action. Otherwise the unhappiness from staying still for too long compounds, making the career confusion feel insurmountable, and taking it from conundrum to crisis.

Though they may get restless more easily, impacters do have a distinct advantage: by seeing career boosts and setbacks as learning opportunities, all outcomes become fodder for growth. Nassim Nicholas Taleb captures this concept in the six-word title of his book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder.

Antifragile organisms do not simply withstand change and survive it; they become better because of it. A glass is fragile. If you drop it, it breaks. A tree is resilient. In strong winds, it sways but stays standing, more or less remaining the same. Organisms that are antifragile actually benefit from shocks. Taleb invokes Hydra, the creature from Greek mythology: when one of Hydra's many heads is cut off, two grow back in its place. The tough-times cliché is true: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. According to Taleb, antifragile organisms "thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors," and "love adventure, risk, and uncertainty."

Love risk and uncertainty? Huh? Aren't these things to be mitigated, if not entirely eliminated? Not if you want to be antifragile in a world that is ruled by them. Impacters find ways to thrive in uncertainty and disorder. Rather than merely reacting to randomness or becoming paralyzed by it, they look for opportunities to alchemize what is already working into what comes next.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Pivot is the New Normal 1

Piviot or Get Pivoted 4

Changing Careers in the Age of the App 8

Connect the Dots Looking Backward 10

Pivot Method at a Glance 13

High Net Growth 18

Career Operating Modes 23

Trust Your Risk Tolerance 25

Two (Many) Steps Ahead, One Step Back 29

Stage 1 Plant 33

Plant Overview 35

Chapter 1 Calibrate Your Compass 39

What Are Your Guiding Principles? What Is Your Happiness Formula?

Create Your Compass 40

Identify Your Happiness Formula 46

Your Body Is Your Business 47

Reduce Decision Fatigue 49

Meditate to Activate Your Best Instincts 50

Chapter 2 Put a Pin in It 53

What Excites You Most?

What Does Success Look Like One Year from Now?

Avoid the Tyranny of the Hows 55

Vision Cloudy? Start Somewhete 56

Clarify Your Vision Statement 60

Summarize Knowns and Unknowns 62

Chapter 3 Fuel Your Engine 65

What Is Working? Where Do You Excel?

Identify Your Strengths 67

Work-History Highlights 70

Chapter 4 Fund Your Runway 75

What Is Your Timeline? How Can You Earn Extra Income?

Build a Solid Financial Foundation 76

Pivot Finance 101 77

Income-Anxiety Seesaw Awareness 84

State 2 Scan 87

Scan Overview

Chapter 5 Bolster Your Bench 91

Who Do You Already Know? Who Can Provide Advice?

What Can You Give in Return?

Expand Your Sphere of Influence 93

Build a Network of Collective Brainpower 94

Career Karma: Seek Reciprocal Success 104

Chapter 6 Bridge the Gaps 107

What Skills and Expertise Will Take You to the Next Level?

Mind the Gap 108

Learn How to Learn 108

Limit Linear Thinking 111

Investigative Listening 114

Be Discerning About Your Learning 119

Chapter 7 Make Yourself Discoverable 123

How Can You Add Unique Value and Build Visibility?

Define Your Project-Based Purpose 124

Platform and Leverage 125

Revel in the Work Others Reject 130

Leapfrog: Work Backward from Two Moves Ahead 130

Let Others Know You Are Looking 133

Stage 3 Pilot 139

Pilot Overview 141

Chapter 8 Get Scrappy 143

What Small Experiments Can You Run?

What Real-World Data Can You Collect?

Aim First for Quantity, Not Quality 145

What Makes a Strong Pilot? 146

Incremental Pilots Within Organizations 152

Reduce Risk with Redundancy 153

Travel Pilots to Shake Up Stagnant Thinking 157

Chapter 9 Pause, Review, Repeat 161

What Worked? What Didn't? What Could You Do Differently?

Pause and Review 163

Take Incrementally Bigger Risks 164

Stage 4 Launch 169

Launch Overview 171

Chapter 10 Build First, Courage Second 173

When Will You Make the Big Move?

What Are Your Linchpin Decision Criteria?

Identify your Launch Timing Criteria 174

Pivot Hexagon 183

Know When to Hold Versus Fold 186

Your Gut Has a Brain 192

Pivot Scales: Comfort Versus Risk 194

Chapter 11 Flip Failure 197

What Will Move You into Action?

Rejection as a Stepping-Stone to Success 200

Mine Failure for Strengths 201

You Can't Make Everybody Happy-So Stop Trying and Start Living 202

Separate Decisions from Difficult Conversations 205

Don't Wait for Perfect Conditions 207

How Do You Know Your Launch Worked? 209

The Continuous Pivot 211

Stage 5 Lead 215

Lead Overview 217

Chapter 12 Are You Listening? 219

How Can You Facilitate Engaging Career Conversations?

Your Interest Matters More Than You Think 221

How to Use the Pivot Method Within Organizations 226

Pilot Creative Internal-Mobility Programs 229

Conclusion: Celebrate Complexity 235

Checking in at the Last Resort 237

The Courageous Life 238

Afterword: What Happens After You Pivot? 241

Acknowledgments 249

Post Pivot: Online Resources 255

Pivot Method Quick Reference 257

Launch Criteria Checklist 259

Resources for Companies 261

Pivot 201: Recommended Reading 263

Notes 265

Index 271

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